OMAHA, Neb. — One game after struggling to find its offense, Virginia on Thursday night used a string of timely hits and a strong pitching outing from one of its stars to beat California 8-1 in a College World Series elimination game.
"You're going to have some days where it's not going to fall for you, but we're all just going to go out there and battle and (Thursday), we came through," Virginia second baseman Keith Werman said.
With the win, the Cavaliers (56-11) advance into Friday night's CWS semifinal against defending national champion South Carolina. After losing to the Gamecocks on Tuesday to fall into the loser's bracket, the top-seeded Cavaliers have to muster up two wins — the second game would be Saturday — before earning a trip to the best-of-three final series. If they lose Friday, they go home.
"I'm just happy and I know the players are happy that we have another shot at (Friday) night and that we've got another chance to play," Virginia coach Brian O'Connor said.
After two scoreless innings, Virginia finally broke through in the top of the third. Jared King led off the inning with a single up the middle. The Cavaliers then went into small-ball mode, trying to move King over with a sacrifice bunt. Things worked out even better than they had hoped.
On his sacrifice attempt, Werman reached when a high, errant throw to first couldn't get him out. The next batter, Chris Taylor was actually thrown out on a sacrifice attempt, but not before his bunt moved King and Werman into scoring position. Moments later, Cal starter Dixon Alexander threw a wild pitch that scored King.
The next batter, John Barr, recorded his own sacrifice, when he lofted a fly ball into left field to score Werman.
Virginia added to its tally in the sixth when center fielder Kenny Swab hit a sinking line drive to his counterpart, Cal center fielder Darrel Matthews. Possibly losing the ball in early evening shadows, Matthews misplayed the liner, allowing the ball to fall underneath his glove and get past him. Swab raced around the bases until he scored. The play was ruled a single with a three-base error.
Two more Virginia runs scored in the inning before the Cavaliers added another two in the ninth.
Werman, who has been one of Virginia's more consistent contributors in the CWS, was 2-for-2 with a pair of singles. He also added to his nation-leading 26 sacrifice bunts with two in Thursday's game. His success was indicative of some of Cal's struggles, Bears coach David Esquer said.
"Keith Werman, who seemed to be in the middle of a lot of things, well, you know, you throw a breaking pitch that's supposed to get to the ground and you elevate it and he hits a base hit for an RBI single," Esquer said. "You just count up all the times they executed, or they performed and we didn't. That happened enough to let the game get out of hand."
Virignia senior Tyler Wilson improved his record to 10-0 with a performance fans at TD Ameritrade Park deemed so nice that he was called upon to tip his cap.
In his second CWS appearance, he struck out five in 7-2/3 innings.
"In the close to 20-something years of coaching, this guy is as good a leader as I've ever seen," O'Connor said. "The guy's a warrior out there."
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